Silver Dollar City, Branson, Missouri

The town of Branson, Missouri is a curious mixture of overtly touristy and world-class attractions. I thought Silver Dollar City would fall in the former category. Instead, after spending a day there, I believe it fits in the latter. I’m going to state a pretty strong opinion here: this theme park is second only to Disney parks for quality, cleanliness, and character.

silver-dollar-city

Silver Dollar City began in much the same way as classic theme parks like California’s Knott’s Berry Farm or Oregon’s quaint Enchanted Forest: as a family business built around a simple, wholesome theme (in this case, the limestone Marvel Cavern and classic Missouri hospitality). But instead of commercializing to the point of soullessness or remaining in relative obscurity, Silver Dollar City somehow grew into itself without losing its heart and sense of purpose.

silver-dollar-city

Yes, there are rollercoasters. But there are also authentic, working craft artisans. There are gift shops selling trinkets, but there are also studios selling handblown glass and pottery fired on-site. With Silver Dollar City’s blend of craftsmen and women and thrill rides, it’s easy to see why it’s a beloved park for multigenerational travelers. And somehow, it all goes together nicely.

silver-dollar-city

The theme park’s premise is of a 1880s frontier town, and what could be hokey is instead charming. Its village of artisan shops and craft demonstrations encircle rides and shows, with dining venues weaved throughout. Somehow, the whole place remains peaceful, despite the bustle of attraction queues for the headliner coasters. In truth, visitors who are not interested in thrill rides can easily avoid them altogether. The Silver Dollar ‘streets’ are distinctly ‘Disney-like’ with pristine cleanliness, lush vegetation, and exceptional theming. A few authentically historical buildings are on display in the center of the park, with the rest of the structures carrying out the theme via replica. At the heart of the park lies Marvel Cave, the original attraction that brought people to the area, but you might actually miss it if you’re not careful: the entrance is actually in the center of the large gift shop near the entrance. This is my only real beef with Silver Dollar City; I’d love to see this limestone feature given more limelight.

silver-dollar-city

In the park’s craft and artisan areas, families can see demonstrations on everything from pottery to glass blowing to bread baking, and just about everything in-between. The artisans in the many shops are not simply dressing in period costume and explaining how things such as lye soap, honey, leatherwork, woodwork, and metalwork items are made…they are actual master craftsmen and women. It’s fascinating to watch them work, browse the shops, and buy souvenirs in stores that are not junky tourist traps (they have those too, though, if you’re partial to that). In addition to the crafts, many food vendors demonstrate their skills as well; Silver Dollar City has a working bakery, grain mill and bread baking facility, creamery, and food stalls serving authentic recipes like succotash and apple dumplings alongside the classics like funnel cakes and kettle corn.

silver-dollar-city-rides

Dedicated ‘lands’ for kids are plentiful: near the artisan areas is an upscale country fair style area with a giant swing and plenty of kiddie rides, and the new Fireman’s Landing features a semi-thrill ride, water splash area, and more children’s classics. Down a ‘holler’ past the park railroad lies an area celebrating Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, with a giant treehouse, river raft ride, and two higher intensity water rides. Beyond all this lie the thrill rides, which consist of three high-quality rollercoasters on par with the top theme parks I’ve been to. In fact, the newest ride, Outlaw, won an award for best new ride of 2013 worldwide. It’s certainly the most intense rollercoaster I’ve ever been on. Two additional high-adrenaline rollercoasters are joined by several smaller rides and Silver Dollar City’s oldest ride, an indoor dark ride that tells the local legend of Missouri hobnobs (up to no good vigilante bandits). It’s a bit scary…mostly because it’s dated and dark, but I can see why long-time park goers are fond of it.

outlaw-rollercoaster

If you want to see all of the park in a day, it’s certainly do-able if you plan correctly. Start with the thrill rides in the morning, while the artisan areas are quieter (you’ll want to hit this area when demonstrations are in full force). After the headliners, ride the smaller rides, grab lunch, then spend the afternoon touring the artisans or the cave. No matter where you are during the day, plenty of higher-the-usual quality theme park fare is on the menu, and shows are regularly scheduled (of the comedy and musical variety). Everywhere you go, you’ll be greeted by big leafy trees and beautiful grounds. In fact, take a look around while ascending to the peak of the rollercoaster mountains…instead of viewing parking lots and city scenes below you, you’ll see miles of rolling Ozark mountains. It’s truly lovely.

Dining:

silver-dollar-city

You can’t go too wrong dining in the park…there are a lot of options, and most of it is very good. If you want an all-you-can-eat-buffet, you’ll find two on the grounds, but I’d opt for finding the street food vendors who sell homemade items unique to Silver Dollar City (you’d find many of these in the buffets, too). Items I liked best include the apple dumplings and cinnamon ice cream, baked beans, and fried okra, plus I was told anything BBQed was excellent. The traditional theme park fare is good too, but trust me, get some of the ‘eats’ unique to the park.

Admission:

silver-dollar-city

Daily admission is $60 for adults, $49 for kids 4-11, and free for kids under three. The value is there, but for $45 more each, you can upgrade to season passes. If you think you’ll make it to the park even twice, absolutely upgrade. Silver Dollar City also posts special offers continuously.

They do offer a ‘front of the line’ pass they call the Trailblazer pass, which allows families to enter in a separate ‘fast pass’ line for up to eight rides for $35 extra per ticket. I’m a fan of these types of passes in the peak of summer when time truly is money, but most of the time, I don’t believe they will be needed at Silver Dollar City. Simply get to the park at opening and ride your favorites first. I was told lines don’t get longer than 1.5 hours even in summer. (This is not an official stat, but was told to me by a senior park staff member.)

bakery

Hours of operation:

The park is seasonal, operating from late spring through December 31. It’s closed Jan-April (except for spring break weeks). Check the calendar for exact hours.

Directions:

The park is located at 399 Silver Dollar City Parkway Branson, MO.

As I disclose whenever applicable, I toured Silver Dollar City as a guest of the theme park. All opinions are my own.

About the author

Amy Whitley AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

Comments

comments

Leave a Comment

*

Shares